The scene is a familiar one. A professional footballer stands dressed in a pair of horrendous jeans and a, tight fitting by default, t-shirt that he’s no doubt paid over the odds for as he holds a replica shirt/scarf/pen and contract (delete where appropriate) in his hands. He announces it’s always been his dream to put on the shirt of a mediocre club in the second tier of English football and sets out some over ambitious targets for the season to arouse the supporters of his new club. Meanwhile, the heartbroken fans of his former employers are told that he’ll be looking out for their results first on a Saturday evening; the footballing equivalent of ‘we can still be friends’. It’s the twice a year tradition of transfer unveiling.
Calendars may have only just turned onto July, but already a host of impressive coups have been made by Championship clubs. Big names have joined clubs looking for promotion, exciting prospects have taken a step up in their development and interesting punts have been taken by those sides that face the prospect of a relegation battle this coming season. In traditional ‘football website with nothing else to publish’ fashion, here’s a top ten of the best signings so far this summer.
10. Neal Eardley – Blackpool to Birmingham City (Free)
The Welsh international was an integral part of Ian Holloway’s successful time at Bloomfield Road, making 24 appearances in Blackpool’s 2009/10 promotion winning campaign, a further 31 in the Premier League and starting in the 2011/12 Championship Play-Off Final defeat to West Ham and looks to be real coup for Lee Clark’s side. The 24-year-old right back, after beginning his career at Oldham, has impressed many with his displays during his time at the Tangerines with both his work at the back and in going forward.
9. Jon Stead – Bristol City to Huddersfield Town(Free)
Once linked with an England call up following a half season spell at Blackburn in 2004 that produced 6 goals from 13 games, the striker has far from lived up to the early promising signs of potential. Only managing a further 8 Premier League goals over three seasons with three different clubs, the 30-year-old has all the credentials of a journeyman pro, tossed about between various second tier clubs. However, he has proven himself to be a tricky customer to Championship defences and was a fans’ favourite during his three year spell at Ashton Gate. Disgruntled Huddersfield fans moaned about their forward line not being able to hold the ball up last season, and Stead can provide just that.
8. Darren Randolph – Motherwell to Birmingham City (Free)
A familiar face to Charlton fans, the Republic of Ireland international has moved back to English football after three seasons in the SPL. Rated more highly that Rob Elliott by some, the Addicks academy graduate impressed during his time north of the border and continues a trend of international goalkeepers at St. Andrews, following in the footsteps of the likes of Joe Hart, Ben Foster and Boaz Myhill. The 26-year-old will be looking to fill the hole left behind by Jack Butland, another international stopper, who has joined Stoke.
7. Robert Hall – West Ham United to Bolton Wanderers (Fee to be Confirmed)
Shifted out on loan to four different clubs, the West Ham youngster has rarely had the chance to showcase the best of his talents. A slightly longer spell at Birmingham City last season impressed many, whilst the striker-cum-winger ended the season on loan at Bolton who were clearly impressed. With plenty of potential, Hall’s signing could prove to be a masterstroke by Bolton manager Dougie Freedman.
6. Alan Judge – Notts County to Blackburn Rovers(Free)
Tracked by many clubs, including Charlton who were rumoured to be close to a deal for the winger, Judge has finally got his much deserved move to the Championship with a return to club who employed him in his youth. Dubbed the ‘Irish Messi’ by County fans, the former youth international was clearly a huge hit down at Meadow Lane during his three season spell with the club. Judge will play an important role if Blackburn’s recent fortunes are to change.
5. Steve Morison – Leeds United to Millwall (Loan)
Morison’s move back to his former club is destined to fail, right? The ‘never go back’ superstition is one thing, but a more pressing matter is his return of just 5 goals in 38 games for Norwich and Leeds last season; a far cry from his prolific previous spell at the New Den. But a move back to a crowd that appreciate the former non-league start may be just what Morison needs to kick start his career again. I expect goals galore from the Welsh international.
4. Luke Murphy – Crewe Alexandra to Leeds United (£1 million)
Crewe’s never ending talent factory has produced yet another exciting talent. Murphy’s ability was shown to the fore in last season’s Football League Trophy Final with a host of clubs linked to his name thereafter. Leeds beat the likes of Blackburn and Wolves to the 23-year-old’s signature, who desperately required a young and exciting midfielder to replace the likes of Michael Brown. The slightly inflated price tag will soon be forgotten if Murphy proves himself to be the linchpin of the Leeds’ side.
3. Dale Jennings – Bayern Munich to Barnsley (£250,000)
Impressing many in his first full season in Tranmere’s first team, the winger earned himself a move to Bayern Munich. The move didn’t quite go to plan for the 20-year-old has his playing time was limited to 36 appearances for Bayern Munich II, meaning a return to English football has been taken by Jennings in order to restart his career. Snapped up at a bargain price for a player of such potential, Barnsley might well have an attacking threat on their hands to keep their noses above danger for the season ahead.
2. Johnny Russell – Dundee United to Derby County (£750,000)
Here we go again. A forward moves to England after scoring goals in the SPL amidst much hype and ultimately fails. However, I don’t see this being the case with the exciting 23- year-old. Despite 20 goals last season, there’s much more to Russell’s game than just putting the ball in the net. Quick feet, an excellent touch and an ability to beat his man make him more than useful down the either flank. Derby are tipped to be one of the dark horses of this coming season and Russell’s goals and ability will help to fulfil that.
1. Royston Drenthe – Alania Vladikavkaz – Reading (Undisclosed)
The sort of transfer rumour you dismiss has lies; a former Real Madrid and international star heading for the Madjeski and Championship football. But Reading have pulled off a major coup in alluring the winger to join their club. Once tipped to be the next best thing, attitude and behavioural problems have seen the 26-year-old fail to fulfil his potential but, as seen by Everton fans, he still has signs of the ability that got him a move to Real Madrid. If Nigel Adkins can tame the beast within Drenthe, they may well have the best player in the league on their hands.